Hitting Hard with Soft Skills

As a Human Resource Development professional, who have been involved in numerous hirings, I will say what I have said many times before. Our soft skills or people skills are often the key to getting the job, the client or the support we want. Usually, a lot of people have technical skills, but do they have interpersonal finesse, such as powerful listening, assertiveness, conflict resolution and problem solving; skills that will have employers, clients and colleague stick to them like bees to honey? Most people don’t have it and that may include you. More times than I would like to admit, it certainly includes me.

I have used my interpersonal communication skills to get great positions and clients. When I was being hired for my previous job, I remember the Vice President commenting on what she perceived as my calming nature. Great! But there are also certain roadblocks that can derails these soft skills; these roadblocks at times certainly undermined my calming nature. Robert Bolton outlined one such roadblock, ‘reassuring’, that I could certainly relate to.

Yes I like to reassure folks, like telling my colleague, who gets a little depressed about business this time of year, that everything will be ok. I was avoiding his concerns. What were his main concerns, I didn’t really ask. I was too busy reassuring.

After going over Robert Bolton’s roadblocks, presented in People Skills, I know now that  my constant reassuring means that I need to take my listening skills up a notch. With this recognition, I progressed on Maslow’s 4 Stages of Learning, from Unconscious Incompetence (you don’t know what you don’t know) to Conscious Incompetence (you know what you don’t know). I believe I am at the level of Conscious Competence with most aspects of my listening skills (I have learned the required skill but it is still a conscious effort to remember and apply them).

We can strive to reach Unconscious Competence (the knowledge and skill is so deeply within us, we don’t have to think for it to show up in our lives). An example of Unconscious competence, for many of us, is riding a bike.

Identifying our roadblock will make us more aware of what it takes to develop great interpersonal skills, that influence and impact people. However, before identifying our roadblocks, it is useful to answer the following question.  When it comes to your interpersonal communication skills (soft skills or people skills), where would you place yourself on Maslow’s 4 Stages of Learning? Choose from the following:

  • Unconscious Incompetence – don’t know what you don’t know
  • Conscious Incompetence – know what you don’t know
  • Conscious Competence – know what you know, but have to work to remember and apply
  • Unconscious Competence – know it all so well, that you are completely unaware of all you know.

Please enter your answer or comments in the comments section below. Visit Wikipedia for further information on Maslow’s 4 Stages of Learning.


Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “Hitting Hard with Soft Skills”

  1. I would say that I mostly know what I don’t know – although I’m working on graduating from that category. One step forward, two steps back, etc.

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